It may not have been a podium position, but 11th and 13th place finishes in the World Solar Challenge for two South African teams – the first from this continent – represent a victory of sorts. Last week, 28 university teams from across the world competed in the Challenge, an energy-management solar car race of 3 022 kilometres across Australia.

Starting in Darwin, located in northern Australia, the teams’ solar cars were powered exclusively by solar or kinetic energy and travelled as far as they could throughout the day, stopping at 5 pm. The goal was to reach Adelaide in the south before the 25th of October.

The race has three classes. The Challenger Class is a single stage race from Darwin to Adelaide, and the Cruiser and Adventure Classes are two-part races with a compulsory overnight stop in Alice Springs – the halfway mark between the two cities.

The two South African teams took part in the Challenger Class leg of the race. They were the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Team UKZN and the University of North-West University’s NWU Solar.

On Friday morning, NWU Solar’s solar car, Sirius X25, crossed the finishing line in Adelaide, to clinch 11th place. Team UKZN’s Hulamin crossed the line in 13th place, a mere 31 minutes and 59 seconds later.

“It was a tough race that required a lot of hard work,” said UKZN’s co-team leader, Dr Clinton Bemont. “We were on the go all the time and never had a chance to relax. Now I’m looking forward to a good shower, time to relax and a beer!”

Read more about NWU’s Sirius X25 here, and UKZN’s Hulamin here.